Statement on Florida Juvenile Arrest Data
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice recently released new juvenile arrest data. It shows that 1,101 children were transferred to adult court in FY 2016-17 – a 14 percent drop from the previous year.

The 1st Judicial Circuit Court, which includes Escambia County, had the most transfers at 121. That number is higher than more populous circuits, such as the 11th Judicial Circuit (Miami-Dade County) with 97 adult transfers, the 13th Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County) with 90 adult transfers and the 4th Judicial Circuit (Duval County) with 44 adult transfers. The 6th Circuit (Pinellas and Pasco counties) was the only other district in triple digits with 100 adult transfers. To review the data on the number of children prosecuted as adults, select “Youth” in the “Arrests/Youth/Pop” field and “Adult Transfer” in the “DJJ Status” field.

The following statement about the data is by Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a member of the No Place for a Child coalition:

“It is encouraging to see that the number of children prosecuted as adults in Florida has declined, but the fact that we’re sending more than 1,000 children into the adult criminal justice system every year is troubling. Florida prosecutes more children as adults than any other state – often at the sole discretion of prosecutors.

“Some areas of the state with reform-minded state attorneys are keeping their promises to send fewer children to the adult system. In Duval County, there was a nearly 50 percent drop in children going to adult court. In Hillsborough County, there was a 32 percent drop.

“Children in other parts of the state, however, are not so fortunate. They are often pushed into the adult system and branded with a felony conviction that will create lifelong obstacles to finding housing, education and employment. They return to their communities more likely to be arrested again. And our communities are worse off for it.

“Our lawmakers have an opportunity to ensure a child’s fate is no longer determined by whether the child is lucky enough to encounter a prosecutor who’s ‘smart on crime.’ SB 936 and HB 509 would set age and offense parameters for adult prosecution. The legislation also would create a fitness hearing, which would provide an opportunity for a judge – not the prosecutor – to determine if a child should be in adult court. What’s more, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission is considering a proposal that would require judicial review of all adult transfers.

“Our children have a propensity for change, but only if we afford them the opportunity to do so. We must enact reforms that provide such opportunity. The adult criminal justice system is no place for a child.”
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The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org.